BLACKHAWKS at JETS
The facts: 7 p.m., CSN, 720-AM.
Updated: November 21, 2013 10:34AM
WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Patrick Sharp was always counting. Goals, assists, plus-minus — he knew every stat as it happened, seeing his numbers rising and falling in real time. When the scoresheets were passed around after the game, Sharp didn’t need to pore over the numbers. He already knew them.
This is how young players, new to the league and trying to make a name for themselves, evaluate themselves. Sharp — a goal scorer by trade — was no different.
“Early in my
I was a player that definitely looked at numbers a lot, and based my play on individual numbers,” said Sharp, about a month shy of his 32nd birthday. “Now I know that’s not always the case. You go into a game knowing what you want to accomplish, and those numbers will take care of themselves down the road.”
That veteran perspective is why Sharp wasn’t smashing sticks when he was sitting on one goal and four assists through the first 11 games. And that same veteran perspective is why the red-hot Sharp isn’t patting himself on the back and booking a February flight to Sochi after posting six goals and nine assists in the 11 games since.
The law of averages suggested Sharp — nearly a point-a-game player over the past few seasons — would get his stats. But more importantly to Sharp, the way he was playing made it just as inevitable.
“It’s funny, those first 10 games or so, I felt like I had more chances offensively than I did the last 10 games,” Sharp said before Tuesday’s dismal 5-1 defeat at Colorado. “And the point production isn’t even close. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. I’m a player on a good team and we’re competitive every night. That’s the best thing you can ask for.”
Of course, there’s a clear line of demarcation in Sharp’s production — Oct. 28 in Minnesota, the day coach Joel Quenneville bumped him up to the top line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. That was exactly 11 games ago. Before that, Sharp skated on a line with Michal Handzus and Patrick Kane. And while Handzus is a savvy playmaker and responsible defender, he simply didn’t have the speed to keep up with his wingers. Toews does.
The results have been eye-popping.
“He’s playing with guys [with whom] the production’s probably a little higher than when he started,” Quenneville said. “That [second] line earlier on, they were probably getting the chances, but maybe not the quality. … Certainly scorers, they love to score, and they feed off it when you get rolling like that.”
Sharp’s torrid play certainly boosts his chances of making the Canadian Olympic squad in Sochi, a lifelong dream. While he might not be counting the numbers anymore, surely Team Canada’s player evaluators notice when a player hands out four assists in one game, as Sharp did at Dallas, or scores twice against a very good San Jose team, as Sharp did on Sunday.
Sharp said the speculation (and the eventual disappointment of being left out) didn’t affect his play in 2010, and that it won’t this year, either, even as the final roster decisions loom next month.
Again, that temperament comes with age.
“I’m only thinking about the Blackhawks, and doing everything I can for Joel, because Joel has really given me an opportunity to play more and play a bigger role,” Sharp said. “I want to reward him.
“You hear about it and you read articles, but I’m 31 years old now, I’m going to be 32 pretty soon. It’s not going to affect the way I’m playing on the ice for the Hawks.”
NOTE: The Hawks were off Wednesday. There was no official update on the lower-body injuries of Marian Hossa and Bryan Bickell. However, the Hawks recalled Jeremy Morin from Rockford, meaning Bickell’s likely to miss Thursday’s game at Winnipeg.